AriRusila's Conflicts

Earlier this week Serbian President Boris Tadic stated, that he would not rule out partitioning Kosovo if all other options on Kosovo’s final status have been exhausted. “Intellectuals in Serbia and the international public are debating the issue of a partition and this is one of the options that have been emphasized all these years in searching for a solution to Kosovo’s future status. I can only think about this when all other possibilities have been exhausted” Tadic told a news conference. (B92, 1/10/2008)


Although Tadic did not specify where the line of partition would run, it is most likely to include the municipalities of Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok as well as the northern half of the flashpoint town of Mitrovica. This area in northern Kosovo is overwhelming ethnic Serb and Pristina’s influence holds little weight here.

However just half of the 100,000 Serbs living in Kosovo actually live in northern areas while the rest are in isolated enclaves that dot the former province. One should also remember that about 100,000 – 206,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Kosovo is living in Serbia.

Kosovo Serbs pro and against

Senior Kosovo Serb politicians claimed President Boris Tadic’s declaration had sent a negative message to Serbs living in the enclaves that are spread out across Kosovo.

Meanwhile the Vice president of the Serb National Council, moderate politician Rada Trajkovic claimed the partition of Kosovo would complete the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo. (BIRN/Balkan Insight Daily 2/10/2008)

On the other hand a deputy for KiM in Serbia Parliament Stojanka Petkovic believes that partition could be a solution. ‘The project of multiethnic Kosovo has failed since it turned out that the Serbs and Albanians cannot live together’, Petkovic says. (Blic 3/10/2008)

Partition as pragmatic solution

Personally I came early 2001 to same conclusion than Ms. Petkovic above and since then considered partition as best possible outcome on the ground. I justify my point e.g. with following arguments:

  • If negotiated and accepted by Belgrade and Pristina partition deal is according international law, not against it like forced, imposed solutions
  • The deal can serve as positive precedent for similar cases in international politics
  • Both parties can focus their energy to improve economy and living conditions of their citizens without never-ending dispute over Kosovo status
  • North can be integrated directly to Serbia without need to make creative solutions for parallel structures; South can concentrate its development needs without endless dispute about authority in North
  • EU and US can focus their actions in Kosovo to capacity building and economical development instead of using huge military/police presence to keep there some order

One big topic of course is the question about enclave Serbs and historical heritage. While agreeing about partition one tacit condition for Kosovo republic should be implementation of self-governance and cultural heritage clauses of Ahtisaari plan.

EU should also implement/finance a sufficient housing program in Serbia to solve its refugee/IDP question. Enclave Serbs could through this housing program find a good alternative to enclave live. The Balkan history is full of examples about more or less voluntary migration of peoples/nations around the region, a housing program could this time make it moderate or at least tolerable.

Bottom line

I know that my point of view is not according some top level ideals about modern multi-ethnic societies and it can violate some persons’ human rights e.g. freedom to choose fixed abode. However partition can be a practical, pragmatic and realistic solution to end a frozen conflict. It can be sustainable base from where both parties can focus to improve their daily live. Who knows maybe after some peaceful period borders start melt down, interaction between individuals from different ethnic groups’ spreads and multi-ethnic region is ordinary routine.

More about Balkan politics in my BalkanBlog

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  1. I would not surprised by the logical ‘pragmantic’ Kosovar reaction to dividing Serbia-proper, too. The border lines of Kosovo do not reflect the boundaries of ethnic groups (if there is any, as they live in a mosaic) and there are quite sizeable Albanian-majority regions in Serbia proper around Kosovo. Now if townships and municipalities could decide for themselves where to belong that would be a sort of act of democracy. Otherwise I see this proposal’s merit, but it would be a defeat for Kosovars, and I do not see why would they conceed to it in the short-run. On the long-run, everybody would be better off with any solution, though, especially Serbs in Northern Kosovo.

  2. When/if two parties are negotiating so in this case it is very pssible that also question about Presevo valley comes to table. One of three Presevo town could be annexed to Kosovo, two of them are maybe too mixed ethnically. While spending my time in Serbia I have came to conclusion that there anyway is relatively good conditions for multi-ethnic society – at least speaking about average population ultranationals excluded. BTW most multiethnic town in Kosovo is North Mitrovica even it is on Serb dominated region.

    Why Kosovo Albanians could consider partition through Ibar river?
    1) Northest part of Kosovo was during Tito time annexed to Kosvo from Serbia, it was not originally included Kosovo province.
    2) I think that also for Kosovo government could develop their area better if thye can get rid off region whch they can not control and where population is not willing to cooperate with them.
    3) If the deal between Belgrade and Pristina could be made, the south part would get statusaccording international law (also e.g. UN seat) and it could start act like independent state.
    4) If the alternative for short term would be continue a rozen conflict I think the deal alternative would be more attractive.

  3. I agree with your point and I think the Kosovars would be better off with taking Tadic’s offer. However, knowing the importance of national pride in new nation states and the hardship of elected politicians to make an international agreement that is not undermined domestically, I think the Kosovar’s will need at least some kind of concessions, territorial or other, to make sell the deal. The EU could be helpful here: probably offering a prize for both parties to make the deal the fruits of the deal could make it sell on both sides.

    Slightly off topic: the partition of Kosovo would indeed be a very ironic twist for the Russian foreign policy.

  4. One prize for both could be removing maybe the main obstacle for EU membership – no border problem anymore. Second garrot for Albanian Kosovo would be entry to intenational organisations – real and wide recognition of new state. After deal EU assistance could focus more to economical development from law & order component. One big garrot would be a comprehensive housing program in Serbia to decrease huge refugee/IDP problem.

    Russia said already during Troika talks that it will agree any agreement which is accepted both by Belgrade and Pristina. Russia has always supported negotiated solution instead of forced one so one could see Belgrad/Pristina deal also as victory of Russian foreign policy. When this deal would be confirmed in UNSC it also can give back some respect of international law and UN authority.

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